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Sun, Dec 07, 2008

FAA Warns Winter Travel Delays Possible Due To Runway De-icer Shortage

Canadian Potash Mineworkers' Strike Interrupted De-icer Fluid Production

In a memo sent to airlines October 29, the Federal Aviation Administration advised of potential disruptions in air travel during upcoming winter months due to a shortage of the chemical used for de-icing runways.

"It is possible that runways may not be able to be maintained to the same level as previous years during winter storms," the FAA said. The shortage is predicted to triple the price of de-icer, USA Today reported.

The supply of potash, a primary ingredient in runway de-icing fluid, was interrupted earlier this year because of a 99-day strike by Canadian mine workers. Although now over, the strike forced manufacturers to shut down production, reducing this year's output of the de-icer.

Because it will take months to reestablish former production levels, the FAA advised the overall production of runway de-icer will likely be only a third or less of previous years. Major manufacturer Cryotech estimated this year's production of potassium acetate at only two million to three million gallons, a huge reduction from last year's nine million gallons.

Michael O'Donnell, FAA's director of Airport Safety and Standards, said, "The airports have a number of different things they can do to make up the difference," referring to recently FAA-approved de-icing products made by several different companies.

Despite increased costs, airport spokesmen from historically snowy locations seemed determined that their runways will be kept open and safe, resorting to alternative chemicals if necessary. Scott Wintner of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport said, "We're pretty confident that, while it may cost us more, we will be able to get what we need."

Lawrence Levine, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, cautioned against the use of unapproved de-icer that could be environmentally unfriendly, calling it "definitely a step in the wrong direction."

The shortage has no effect on the supply of airplane de-icer fluid, which is made from a different chemical.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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